All-at-onceness never stops.
Ukraine is under siege by a paranoid Putin.
Where Putin supposedly saw an opening and weakness, European states are resolving to oppose him and his oligarchs: Switzerland is no longer neutral, and Germany is militarizing. Eurocentric postwar “stability” has been undone in less than a week.
Meanwhile, COVID mask mandates are expiring in multiple states, trans rights are being undermined in TX, and climate reports are using phrases like “an atlas of human suffering” to describe the seriousness of climate change.
It’s all so much, all at once. And there’s no signs of stopping.
Last week, I had resolved to stay off Twitter because I was having trouble maintaining some needed emotional distance while I worked on the book; I needed to think on a different timeline than the one twitter provides. But staying completely offline quickly became untenable.
The day after I tried to distance myself from twitter, elite evangelicals started using ad hominem attacks on my friend Chrissy Stroop to discredit Kristin Kobes Du Mez through association. This personal anti-trans rhetoric, which I will not link to, was blatant, dehumanizing, and cruel. You can google Andrew Walker and Denny Burk yourself and find the examples I’m alluding to - but suffice to say their willingness to stoop so low to use these tactics speaks volumes of their character as well as their concern over the power of Du Mez & Stroop’s bodies of work that they will seek to dehumanize their literal bodies.
Speaking as someone whose body is not politicized or endangered because it is white and male-presenting, the least I can do is decry this type of behavior.1 It also reaffirms my own understanding of what a term like “exvangelical” means. It is not a totalizing identifier, and that it is “negative” is an asset - it signals abnegation - the rejection & renunciation of evangelicalism, and its complicity in perpetuating whiteness, and other forms of supremacy as inhumane and (if you must) unChristlike.
All of these things happened in rapid succession or simultaneously - both the global events and the online barbs mentioned above - and much more, besides.
It’s all so much, all at once.
And I am increasingly less willing (or perhaps less able) to process things in real-time, in public.
I want to move beyond what the media theorist Douglas Rushkoff calls “present shock.” This idea is more robust than a specious “kids these days spend too much time on their damn phones” position. Rather, it speaks to the same feeling of paralysis and overwhelm expressed in the cartoon above - especially when you have to contend with both your own feelings as well as those of far-flung people online.
To quote McLuhan again, “as soon as information is acquired, it is very rapidly replaced by still newer information.” This is what both Rushkoff and McLuhan evoke.
I recognize the simultaneous realities and truths of all these things, and I recognize my own limited capacity to both understand or affect anything related to them. That increased awareness has made me less able to share those thoughts or emotions in the moment. I am trying to renegotiate my relationship to anxiety & present shock, and find ways to become unstuck.
Having spent time in evangelicalism, that also means I’ve spent time thinking about the end of the world. And wars and mention of wars will reboot that old thinking, whether I want it to or not.
So I’m taking some solace in the idea of hyperobjects - a concept explored in this book by Timothy Morton - that there are things happening on timescales that I have a hard time comprehending, and that “the world” has already ended, because it was an artificial concept to begin with.
This idea - that the world is far bigger than our human designs, that human designs made by people long-gone made to wield atomic weapons and use coal to power steam trains have altered the geological record of Earth, and that recognizing this reality grants us the liberty to explore any possible idea that could mitigate harm knowing that it will involve degrees of hypocrisy, weakness, and ineffectiveness - is more resonant with this ex-evangelical than a Smiling Sisyphus.
These are the three things that have been on my mind, beyond personal & local concerns:
The war in Ukraine & the changing world order
The asymmetrical “war” on “deconstruction”
Present shock, hyperobjects, and how media & social media exacerbates anxiety.
It’s all so much, all at once. But I’m trying to cope.
How are you coping? Let me know in the comments or in Discord.
I say “male-presenting” sometimes because just as I have no interest in defending whiteness, I have no interest in defending some notion of “masculinity,” either.